I’ve played quite a lot of DoomRL previously and promptly forgot about it – not because it’s a bad game (quite the opposite, in fact), but because there are always so many games vying for attention. This week, however, Kornel Kisielewicz and Derek Yu released an update and I decided to venture back out to the moons of Mars to check it out.
Doom was something of a formative experience for me, which is something I’m sure most gamers my age can say. I’d played Wolfenstein, but it never managed to grab me in the way that Doom did. The game is rightfully a classic, but I’m sure my obsession with it was prompted, by the MA15+ label emblazoned across the front of the disc.
Many hours were sacrificed at the satanic-looking altar of Doom.
DoomRL is simultaneously a lavish homage to Doom and a complete reinvention. If you’ve played a turn-based Roguelike before then you’ll know they’re hardly the best way to present fast-paced, frenetic action, so the basic gameplay is about as far removed from Doom as it can be. The recreation of the hero, monsters and gear, however, is perfect, the visual effects for the powerups are spot-on and the descriptive text is suitably gory and cheesy. From the opening menu screen to your final death it all feels like Doom, which is quite a feat considering the turn-based mechanics, upgrade system and RPG-style leveling.
Playing the game consists of exploring each level square-by-square to reveal the map, slay demons and collect anything that might help you survive. All the Doom weapons are available, from the Chainsaw to the BFG9000, and all of them can be upgraded in a variety of ways, which is lucky, ‘cause you need all the help you can get. The lowest difficulty offers next-to-no challenge, but normal (the highest difficulty level available from the get-go) is utterly brutal.
For my money Teleglitch is a better Doom Roguelike than DoomRL with its real-time, frenzied action in a claustrophobic, unnerving setting – but that’s the great thing about DoomRL, it doesn’t require money. Kornel must have known he could never charge for the game when he started the project, and Derek Yu must simply be allergic to money – he being behind the brilliant and also free Spelunky – but if you enjoy the game you’re encouraged to donate at the DoomRL page.
Nostalgia is all well and good, and DoomRL is good fun in its own right, but hopefully soon we’ll see something new and original from Kornel and co.; A new game where he takes the lessons he has learned building his various homages and lets his imagination run wild on something completely different.
If that ever happens we’ll be watching very closely.